Talks fail to resolve Polish political crisis

January 11, 2017 7:51 am
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“We weren’t able to reach a final agreement,” said Jaroslaw Kaczynski (R), the leader of Poland’s governing conservative group, Law and Justice (PiS) party © AFP/File / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

, Warsaw, Poland, Jan 10 – Poland’s political parties said Tuesday they failed to reach agreement in talks on ending an unprecedented sit-in protest in parliament over a budget vote.

“We weren’t able to reach a final agreement,” said Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the governing conservative group, the Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Opposition lawmakers have been occupying parliament since mid-December in protest at what they call anti-democratic actions by the parliamentary majority.

The sit-in was initially launched after the PiS announced plans to restrict journalists’ right to cover legislative proceedings, a position from which the party has since retreated.

The opposition then harnessed the protest to a budget vote they described as illegal.

On Monday, the PiS began talks to find a solution before Wednesday, when parliament is due to resume its work after the holidays.

The opposition wants a re-run of this year’s budget vote, which parliament held in another part of the building because of the opposition takeover of the main chamber.

It also argues on procedural grounds that the last session of parliament is not — as the PiS says — formally over, but merely “interrupted.”

“We’re staying put until the budget is put to a vote,” opposition lawmaker Slawomir Neumann, from the liberal Civic Platform (PO) party, wrote on Twitter.

But the PiS considers the budget vote to be legal and wants parliament to formally launch a new session on Wednesday.

The sit-in is “an attempted coup” according to Kaczynski.

“It was a serious attempt at trying to paralyse the government by force in an undemocratic manner,” he said in late December.

According to sociologist Ryszard Cichocki, “the conflict will only get worse. Neither the governing party nor the opposition are ready to discuss what is essential for Poland’s future.”

The opposition has been backed by street demonstrators from the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) popular movement and other citizen groups.

In December, the EU gave the PiS government another two months to reverse changes it made to Poland’s constitutional court or face sanctions, warning they posed a “substantial” challenge to the rule of law.

This and the crisis in parliament come just over one year after the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party swept to power and began pushing through legislation that critics allege undermines democracy.

Although the moves have sparked mass anti-government street protests, the PiS remains widely supported and has kept well ahead in recent opinion polls.

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